March 30, 2008

Still Looking

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it.

But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.
I was driving home tonight from a church meeting and the song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" from the album Joshua Tree by U2 (arguable one of the greatest albums of all time) came up on my ipod's shuffle playlist. Here's a song that I have heard countless times and love belting out as loud as I can each time and every time I hear the above line from this song, it makes me stop and think.

It makes me wonder how many of us as Christians are still searching for something. It's like we are saying we believe in all the stuff we are suppose to believe in as a Christian but are looking for something more, like it's not quite enough. But what more can there really be...knowledge, wealth, fame, looks, things? Every single one of these things that most of us try to obtain leave us wanting more. There will always be someone smarter, richer, more popular, better looking or possessing more things. It's funny because when I hear this song, I try to pretend like I have the opportunity to ask Bono what more there is to be looking for than the One who "carried the cross of my shame". Are we so discontent that even this is not enough?

March 27, 2008

Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings

The Counting Crows released their newest album entitled "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings" this past Tuesday. I picked it up yesterday and have been spending some time with it over the past 24hrs +...

I must admit from the very beginning I am not a huge Counting Crows fan. I really like their album "Films About Ghosts" but am so-so at best about their others. I did have the opportunity to see them live last summer "headlining" a show with Collective Soul and +Live+ (who by the way, completely rocked that show out) and must admit that their showing was quite poor and boring to say the least. So, this is the baggage that I am carrying as I give their latest debut a spin.

If you are a big Counting Crows fan I have no doubt that you will love this album. With a total of 14 tracks you certainly get your money's worth of music. I feel like the album starts out strong and even somewhat rockin' as far as Counting Crows go but around track 7 it dips into a mellow rut that lasts for the next few tracks. I guess I was looking for this newest album to be mostly upbeat leaving me with the image of Adam Duritz's dreadlocks flailing all over the place but not so much. The more mellow songs showcase his distinct voice quite well but overall I think the album is somewhat lyrically weak. My favorite song on the album without question is track 2 entitled "Hanging Tree". When I first heard it I was hoping the rest of the album would be similar to this and began wondering if this would be the album to bring me around as a fan but I'm not quite "Round Here" yet.

March 26, 2008

Are We On The Same Planet?

Part of my normal routine throughout the week is listening to NPR or the BBC on my way in to work in the morning. There was a story I heard on the BBC today that left me thinking, is this really happening on the same planet that I live on? It was a story about the plight of as many as 300 Zimbabwean women working in the neighboring city of Livingston in Zambia as prostitutes. (You can check out the article from the BBC here) These are women who at one time were bankers, business owners, or policewomen who have been left with no choice but to sell themselves in order to feed their families; not just their children but grandparents, nieces and nephews that live with them because their parents have died.

I've been reminded how easy it is for me to forget that these sorts of things are happening in our world today as I drive my comfortable Volkswagen Passat anywhere I want to go, able to afford paying $3.45/gallon for gas. I find myself feeling disgusted, frustrated, saddened, angry, dumbfounded that these kinds of things are happening in this day and age. How can we say that humankind has achieved so much and sit by while things like this happen all around the world? I have to believe there is something I can do to make a difference, even if it is simply making people aware or through prayer because if I can't, then what's the point of this?

March 25, 2008

Weekend in Review

I hope everyone had a great Easter holiday. For those of you attending Christian colleges and already having your spring break it ended up being quite a nice Easter break for you (almost like a 2nd spring break with classes ending Thursday and not starting again until Tuesday morning for most people). In addition to Easter, I felt like there were a couple of things that happened over my weekend that I wanted to comment on...

It's funny that regardless of how healthy you think you might be, a visit to the doctor can help you realize you aren't quite as in shape as you thought. Getting a call from a younger sister telling you that she is lost as the nurse steps out of the exam room does not bode well for your blood pressure once she steps back in to check it. In addition to a "slightly high blood pressure", the opportunity to get your blood taken to have your cholesterol level checked makes for a great visit. Being completely honest with you, I must admit that I was somewhat discouraged as my results showed my cholesterol to be lower than last year but still higher than I expected it to be. I was bummed because I thought I had worked fairly hard over the past year to eat better and stay more active but still not enough I guess...

Good Friday means the office is closed when you work for a church.

Spent some time getting things ready for church the next day and had the opportunity to grab some dinner and hang out with some college students that I haven't seen for a while and that I have missed. It's fun to be away from people for however long only to get together and have it seem like you just saw them yesterday.

Easter Sunday
Easter tends to be a pretty busy morning when you work for a church but it was good to see a lot of people come out for worship. If you stop and think about it (and maybe you already have), Christianity would either not exist or be really lame if it wasn't for the Resurrection of Jesus. Seriously, without that major event in history we would pretty much be nothing. Thank God He's Alive!

Sunday evening I caught The History Channel's very informative and well done show called "Crucifixion". Trying to even begin to imagine the amount of pain involved in this method of execution is nearly impossible. While I've read and studied the method used to kill Jesus, I felt like the medical experts on this program did a great job of explaining what was likely taking place in Jesus' body as He hung on the cross. It brought a new perspective on the significance of Jesus being God incarnate.

March 20, 2008

Maundy Madness

Maundy Thursday...the day we remember the last meal Jesus had with His disciples before His crucifixion. They were hanging out in an upper room celebrating the Passover meal together even while Jesus knew that one of His closest followers was in the process of betraying Him. If you ask me, I think it shows a ridiculous amount of love, forgiveness and acceptance but that might just be me...

And on the Madness side of things...You know it's officially March Madness when you were really hoping that Belmont was going to upset Duke as a 15 seed because upsets like that are always sweet to watch. Regardless of who you may have picked to win in your bracket.

March 19, 2008

Taking Account...

What if you were held accountable for every stupid thing someone in your life said or worse yet, what if everyone else was held accountable for every stupid thing you or I said? It seems rather unfair to put the consequences of someone else's words or actions onto another person, especially when there is nothing you can do to determine what will be said or done.

Yesterday Sen. Obama gave a speech addressing some of the things his former pastor said in a couple of his sermons a number of years ago. Sen. Obama shared that he did not agree with the way some of the racial issues had been preached from the pulpit by his former pastor. What seems unfair to me is that people have called on Sen. Obama to take account for those words spoken by another individual as if somehow they were his words, ideas or beliefs. It would be equally unfair to think that Sen. Clinton should be held accountable for her husband's unfaithfulness in marriage while he served as President. It's not as though we are talking about children but grown adults that are making their own choices, both in word and deed and I sit here wondering at what point will people be held accountable for their own words and actions?

March 18, 2008

The Greatest Week

Holy Week is here and with it comes thoughts of Jesus' last week before His death. I must admit that when I think about all that took place during these few days I can only imagine how completely exhausted Jesus must have been...physically, emotionally, spiritually and yet still He remained obedient, faithful and forgiving.

I hope that Holy Week touches you in a way it never has before. I pray that the events of this week in Jesus' life impact you in such a way that your life can never be the same.

March 12, 2008

A Force To Reckon With

We find ourselves witness again to another public figure that has been caught up in a scandal that has cost him his elected position, no doubt hurt his family and could possibly land him in jail. I find myself feeling sorry for Gov. Eliot Spitzer's family especially but also for him as he now deals with the guilt, regret, shame and hurt caused by his choices. I bet given the chance, if he hasn't already, he would admit that those choices were not worth all that he and his family now face.

This most recent display of infidelity has caused me to think about the strength of the human sex drive. The desire to be physically involved with another person in a sensual way is not limited to any specific age, gender, race or class. And if you stop and think about all of the different ways our culture uses our sex drive to market things, then it becomes obvious that it can be a powerful force. It is not an uncommon thing to see someone trade their reputation, job, friendships, or family life, among other things, for some sort of sexual encounter only afterwards to realize it wasn't and isn't worth it.

Why is sex such a driving force in our culture and society? Why does it cause people to be or do things that otherwise they would never be or do? There are times when it seems as though we have lost all control of our bodies and what's really scary, our culture says it's "Ok" or "normal". Like when you see statistics that 1 in 4 teenage girls has an STD (read article here) and think that seems outrageously high but then hear experts say that isn't any higher than what previous tests have shown as "normal". I mean seriously, at what point are we going to realize that something has to happen in our culture to change this trend?

Now don't get me wrong, I know that appropriate physical contact in the appropriate relationship is fun and even feels good....for a while. It's not as if that feeling goes on for days and days (I'm not a doctor but I'm guessing if it does go on for days and days you might want to see one) so take a second to really think through if your physical actions are worth the emotional, spiritual, social, physical, mental impact on you, your friends, your family, the other person's friends, the other person's family and of course the other person. It seems all to often we are willing to trade the things we have worked so hard to build and uphold; ie. reputation, witness, health, values, career, family, friendships for something that is so temporary and fleeting.

God created sex and He created it to be a good thing (in the right time and place) but He doesn't expect us to be obsessed with it or have it be the driving force in our lives. Sometimes I laugh when I hear people say they are not down with following Jesus because there are too many rules, as if Jesus just arbitrarily picked some things He knew we might like to do and then tells us that we can't do them..."Oh man, I bet they would really love and have fun doing this. I'm going to tell them they can't. Perfect!" Is it possible that there is some wisdom in Jesus' teaching of waiting to have sex until you are in a committed marital relationship? Putting all faith things aside for a second, it would seem that Jesus is making the point that sexual relations involve so much more than the physical but is also mental, social, and emotional as well. What better way to lessen the chance of hurt, shame, regret, guilt, mistrust, disease, etc. than to experience sexual relations in the confines of marriage because otherwise, I'm not so sure it's worth it.

March 11, 2008

So What Are You Doing About It?

I was reading the story of Jonah the other day (you know, the guy that gets swallowed by a giant fish for 3 days...) and something hit me that I had never noticed before. At the end of the story, in chapter 4, Jonah is upset because the vine that had been giving him shade died though he didn't do anything to cultivate or keep it healthy. And then God asks him if he has any right to be upset about the vine...

So I'm sitting here wondering how many times we have noticed something that has upset us or seen something in someone else that we know is not healthy and yet we did nothing. We get frustrated with the choices we see others make but we do nothing to cultivate a relationship or encourage growth, instead we sit there upset and wonder why it has to be this way. Now, if I may, I am going to take this to another level and ask what this means in regards to the witness of our faith. If Jesus hasn't transformed your life yet, let me know but if He has, then what are you doing when you see someone that desperately needs to meet Him? Are you like Jonah sitting there upset because the vine died though he did nothing to keep it alive?

March 6, 2008

A Half-Empty Day

Have you ever had those days when things just seemed to be more bad than good? Or when your outlook on things seemed to notice the emptiness of the glass rather than any amount of its fullness? Today was kind of like that for me as I sat in the waiting room while the oil in my car was being changed and had to witness what should be one of the biggest embarrassments for all of mankind, the Jerry Springer Show...I really have nothing more to say about that.

On my drive in to the office and my daily update of news once at my desk, I found myself disheartened by what I heard and read more so than I can remember in recent history. I've been staying pretty faithful to my not-really-a-new-year's-resolution of being aware of current events not just in our country but around the world so it's not as if I haven't seen similar stories of injustice, death, war, etc but for whatever reason it hit me a little harder today. Rising gas prices which lead to higher prices for food, talk of inflation and recession, war, innocent college students being murdered, over 120 people killed in an Israeli raid on Gaza, at least 8 students killed at a religious school in Jerusalem and the list of things that make the glass half-empty could go on and on.

It's in these times of what seem like hopelessness when I can do nothing else but lean on the words of Jesus when he tells those who are tired, burdened and weary to find rest in him. There is no point in worrying about tomorrow since it will worry about itself, instead spend your time seeking the ways in which God's Kingdom is filling the glass today, even if it is only halfway.

March 5, 2008

My Psychological Aptitude

I'm not even sure I know exactly what that means but I spent 5hrs taking various tests downtown today as I'm working through the process to get my license as a local pastor. Sitting in a narrow room with my no.2 pencil and the 10 different tests I had to take starting at 9am and finishing at 3pm, with a short break for lunch, I was fascinated by how they can use true/false questions (mind you, 586 of them just on that 1 test) like, "I would like to be a dancer." to figure out whether or not I might be a good pastor. While it seemed like I answered the same question about being afraid of the dark 7 to 8 times, I am still amazed that they can take some seemingly pointless questions and use them to evaluate my mental state.

I guess I was reminded at how incredible the brain really is. This is not really my field of expertise but the way personality, questions and answers, reactions and responses all work together truly is remarkable. Kind of like if you have ever taken a Myers Briggs test or something similar to that answering what seem like arbitrary questions only to see the results nail your personality almost to a "T". I have an interview in April to interpret the results, I'll be sure to let you know if they come close to me or not.

March 4, 2008

New Tunes

So my music library is starting to get a little overplayed as of late and I'm in desperate need of some new music. It's been quite a while since I have gotten anything new and then my friend Neal hooked me up with an album from the band Hogeye Navvy, and I must admit I really like it. This has been just enough of a tease to get me excited about finding some new stuff to listen to. Any suggestions you have are welcome, from the more well-known artists to the not-as-well-known-yet artists, let me know what you're listening to and enjoying.

March 3, 2008

A Timeless Difficulty

Sometimes I hear people say, "It's not easy being a Christian in today's world." As I've thought about that, I'm not sure I understand what that means exactly. Does it mean that it was easier yesterday or that at some point in history following Jesus was easy? It's clearly not easy to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, and Jesus himself says so. We've all heard the cliche' "No Pain No Gain", I wonder if this applies to our faith as well.

I'm going to throw something out there, and if you don't like it you can send it right back. We know that at no point in history or in the future will it be easy to be a disciple of Jesus but what if I made the argument that the less "Christian" our culture is the more real our Christianity becomes? What I mean by this is that it isn't all that difficult to claim to be like Jesus when everyone else around me claims the same thing. This doesn't mean that we are actually living Christ-like lives but we certainly don't have to worry about being looked at weird when everyone else is saying the same things.

Now, on the flip-side, when we claim the name of Christ in a time, place or culture where not everyone is claiming the same name or maybe even dislikes the name there is a good chance we will catch some flack. Instantly it becomes a deliberate, conscious decision to try and follow Christ, not because everyone else around you is doing the same but because you have decided to make your faith real, fully aware that it will not be easy but well worth it.